Saturday, May 29, 2010

Te Voy A Extranar Mucho

I AM HOME!!!!!

it feels so good to be back.

what I missed about the United States:
- hot showers
- Chick fil a
- straight hair
- my AGD sweatshirt
- iPhone
- air conditioning
- toilet paper
- Diet Coke
- my friends
- always understanding the people I talk to
- reliable internet
- new contacts
- my shows
- quiet

what I will miss about Panamá:
- plantains
- magoes
- leches
- hearing "Maestra Carmen" 587 times a day
- my roommate and added roommate
- hearing "Waving Flag" everywhere
- hearing Spanish everywhere I go
- orange sweater (just kidding)
- rice
- Dunkin Donut runs during lunch break
- singing The Moose Song
- not having a phone
- the noise

*clarification about the toilet paper: it is very rare that they have it in the bathrooms and we had to bring our own everywhere. there ya go, Mar :)

home is great, but I miss Panama...

Friday, May 28, 2010

We Gave You Channing Tatum. You're Welcome For That.

Today we spent the entire day at the beach! ... are paying for it now. Good news is it will be mostly tan by the end of the weekend. It was just 5 of us and we had an awesome day just relaxing by the ocean. sleep, walk, ocean, read, repeat.

when we got home and showered, we went out to dinner and then went to see Dear John. I've read the book, but I still think it is just so sad and we cried the whole time basically. came home and packed and now we are off to the airport without any sleep at all :)

adiós, Panamá! te voy a extrañar y te quiero mucho!

Si Se Puedes!

We did it! The presentation is DONE!

Wednesday morning came way too early so that we could get to the university and practice for a little bit before. Nervous would be the understatement of the year. When we were waiting in one of the classrooms the students from the schools started to get there. We knew some kids from Omar Torrijos were coming, but we didn't really know what they were doing or anything. Then Juana popped her head in the door and screamed (this would not surprise you if you knew her, she's a riot) and I screamed and then we both cried. Of course. I couldn't believe she was there! And then Hillary and Narichel came running into the room and jumped all over me. It was the most perfect surprise ever! I just cried and cried I was so happy. Hillary dances traditional Panamanian dance and Narichel is Kuna, so they were both dressed up and beautiful!

The presentation itself was a thousand times better than I honestly expected it to go. All morning Joanna and I listened to Our God to remind ourselves that He is greater and stronger and it got us fired up to do this and trust that God would pull through for us. And that He did. At the end, Sarah and I shared things that we had learned. They laughed when we said something funny and agreed with us and nodded their heads. It was awesome because they truly understood exactly what we were saying without confusion or miscommunication. We made a slideshow for the end and all got really teary when we watched it. It's amazing to see how far we've come since we first stepped off the plane. Everyone was crying and telling us how proud they were of us. We needed that. I needed that. I need words of affirmation like I need air, and the whole time the dean (who we absolutely positively LOVE) sat right in front of me nodding her head and smiling and mouthing all kinds of words of encouragement throughout the whole presentation. I am so thankful for her.

Unfortunately, Juana, Hillary, and Narichel coming meant saying goodbye again, and this time was much worse than the first. The girls would not stop crying and begging me to stay and asking if they can come to Georgia with me. I was a mess. I am amazed at how quickly these kids found such a significant place in my heart. I love them so much and I wanted so badly to tell them I would be back soon but that's a lie. I had no words. They just wrapped their little arms around my neck and held on for dear life. They took a piece of my heart with them when they walked out that door.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

It's Painful How American I Am

Yesterday was a bit of a rough day. And by that I mean really rough. I had a really hard time not being bitter about being up so late when so many people were asleep the night before. I was just so tired. Not saying that is an excuse for not necessarily loving these girls the way I know I am called to love, just being honest.

We visited our last school! It was another private school called IPA. I went over to a Kindergarten classroom for the morning. I think Kindergarten is the best age ever! You sing and dance and color and learn all kinds of new things all day long. It's awesome. And the kids are still such babies and just love you. It's perfect.

For class we practiced our presentation the whole time. I messed up a thousand times. I was exhausted and frustrated and nervous and it all just exploded. My Spanish teacher basically told me everything I said was wrong and didn't understand and changed it all. My history teacher lost my paper I gave her to revise, so she wrote something for me to say there. I didn't know any of the words. They were huge! Words I would never use at all. I just lost it. I mean the ugly cry. It was bound to happen, it just had to be me. I finally got it together enough to practice, but messed up a ton and left so discouraged. Those are the moments that I just want to quit Spanish. I have never wanted something so badly and nothing has ever been this hard for me to achieve, but now I see that it is worth it. More on today's presentation tomorrow because it is bed time :)

My Dad Is Here With The Americans In Orange

I am so behind! Gotta back up all the way to Monday. In fact, it has been so long that I wrote about the Chino Panameño school, then erased it, then wrote about the Episcopal school, erased it, and now am certain that we went to the Chino Panameño school on Monday.

Basically it is World Language Academy on steroids. And much more expensive. We got a tour of the whole school and spent a little bit of time in the classrooms. Of course I was in love with every little Chinese girl that walked by me, and there were a lot. Then we went to this replica of a park in China. really pretty... much like everything in Panama.

pretty sure this is a sign that my China baby girl will be an Alpha Gam
I just love this picture that Sarah took while I was painting because it shows my ring
The rest of the night (until about 1:30 am) was spent working on our presentation. boring, I know.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Cha Cha Nueva

We're gonna make this real short. For our last part of our culture class we went on the "party bus" I mentioned not too long after we first got here. It was part of our class, and part of the culture, so we decided to just suck it up and go and make the best of it. Turns out it was a whole lot of fun. It's literally this bus with no seats that drives around the city and you just dance. We had a good time, but were exhausted this morning!

Sophie couldn't go out with us...

...but she had one awesome dress!
I will update about today and (probably) tomorrow, but it is currently 12:55 am and I am exhausted! I will say this: Tensions are running high around here. We're 3 days away from going home and we can feel the anticipation. We're getting on each other's nerves and we're irritable. We have a major presentation on Wednesday. And by major I mean that it is in front of the whole school. Which I may have mentioned before but am too tired to go back and look. 4 out of 10 of us are currently awake because we just finished a major part of it. Everyone else has been asleep for hours. Need I say more? Conflicts are rising. It's hard. I'm tired. We're all tired. and emotions are also a little out of control. So the point is, we really need your prayers the next few days. It's getting hard. 

Monday, May 24, 2010

Aquí Estoy Yo

I had the greatest morning ever today. Sarah got the contact information for a missionary down here from her dad and they had been emailing, so we decided to go to church this morning. We took a taxi and headed to El Dorado, not sure what to expect, but excited. The taxi driver wasn't entirely sure where we were going, and we were thankful for Cindy (who speaks fluent Spanish) to help us tell him, but when he heard us speaking English he told us he speaks English too so we were able to talk to him when he was confused about where we were going exactly. God moment #1. When we got to the church, the lady Sarah knows (Nancy) wasn't there yet, so that was a little bit awkward waiting on her. But when she got there and we started taking to her, it was like we had been friends forever. I was a little worried about the service because I wondered if I would know what was going on at all, but when the first song started playing, it was like I was at home. God moment #2. I didn't know the words, but it was like I knew the words. Weird, I know. Then they started playing one of my all time favorite song: Aquí Estoy Yo. That's about the moment when tears started streaming down my face. God moment #3. I have wanted for so long to be able to truly worship collectively in Spanish, and today that wish came true. I don't think I have ever sang a song with so much of my heart before. It was wonderful. After an hour, it was time for the sermon. This is where I was most skeptical. I won't claim in any way to have understood much of what he said at all, but by reading the passages he was using, I totally got it and God definitely showed up and spoke to me loud and clear. The sermon was about our fruit and how others will know we are His by our fruit. One of the verses he used was Luke 13:6-9, then he told this parable: "A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, 'For three years now I've been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven't found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?' 'Sir,' the man replied, 'leave it alone for one more year and I'll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.' " God moment #4. I have a friend (let's call her friend #1) who I have been praying for for 3 years now and I feel like it is a constant cycle of taking 2 steps forward and 3 steps back. I feel like every time we get anywhere, something happens that makes her digress and we're back where we started, if not further behind. Last night I was talking to a friend (let's call him friend #2) about how discouraged I am getting about it because I feel like I am running out of time with her. Next year is my last year with her and we aren't in the same cohort so we won't be spending as much time together. I went to bed last night feeling totally discouraged. But then I read this passage. I so feel like that man. I feel like I need to see some fruit. After 3 years, I need to see something! It was like God literally said to me, "leave it alone for one more year. I can do this. Let me take care of it." I felt this wave of peace come over me. Last night when I was talking to friend #1 about friend #2 he told me over and over that I can't make salvation for her, and I know that, but it's hard to grasp that. I really needed God to just reassure me that He has this under control. Done. I am continually amazed at how God transcends all language barriers for His glory. It's incredible. We went to lunch with Nancy and had wonderful, encouraging conversations. God moment #5. She is me in an older body. She is from Honduras and her husband is from Michigan. They met in Honduras while he was there learning Spanish. That is just proof and encouragement that God can most definitely orchestrate my meeting my husband, even in the most random ways. She was telling us about her sister and brother-in-law who now live in McDonough and are having a really hard time finding a job because they are still struggling with the language a lot. They are both engineers, but are looking for jobs teaching Spanish right now. Well last week Mariana sent Sarah an email about 13 Spanish teaching positions in Atlanta City Schools. Perfect for both of them. God moment #6. The rest of the afternoon was full of life and smiles and happiness and friendship and God. Every conversation was alive with His presence. Nancy and David live with their 2 girls (Gina, 14 and Didi,13) in a precious little house with their mission office connected to the back. They work for IMB and are so completely content. At one point Sarah and I just looked at each other and both said, "they are really living the dream." I can't wait to have that life full of ministry with my husband. We are going to be a mighty force for Him; He confirmed that belief in me even more so today. I am so thankful for His constant affirmation and am so excited about where He is going to take me. And, one day, take us. All of us.

no tienes que buscar a nadie mas, yo quiero ir, aquí están mi tiempo, aquí están mis horas, aquí estoy yo, mi vida es para ti y en ti la quiero yo invertir, aquí están mis manos, aquí está mi voz, aquí estoy yo.
(you don't have to look for anyone else, I want to go, here is my time, here are my hours, here I am, my life is for you and in you I want to invest, here are my hands, here is my voice, here I am)

Sunday, May 23, 2010


I recently found this picture on Annie Blogs and immediately loved it.

I am able.

When the plane landed in Panama 22 days ago, I was scared. Joanna and I sat in our seats and kept saying, "what have we gotten ourselves into?" We couldn't understand the people around us speaking Spanish. I suddenly felt so dumb. For the first few days, I had no idea what was going on around me. I was lost and confused. I felt defeated. Every day.

I am able.

I am able to understand. I am even able speak. I am able teach in Spanish. I am able to help these kids. I am able to communicate my point. I am able to present a major project in Spanish. I am able to live in another country. I am able to be comfortable in a Spanish speaking country. I am able to take care of myself here. I am able to do this for my whole life.

I am equipped for the exact moment that God puts me in. I am able, with Him. Every time I thought I wouldn't be able to handle it, I did it.

I am able.

Nicholas Sparks Writes Books

Today was just a day to relax. We slept late and laid in bed for a long time. Spent most of the morning just around the house, stealing each others' pictures and music and such. One of our teachers came over to help us with a project we are supposed to be doing for her class. Remember the mola bag that I got? Well for our history class she wanted us to learn to make those. But we hadn't even started. And they have to be done for our presentation on Wednesday. Needless to say, we did not see that happening. We didn't even understand how to do them and were getting so stressed out about it. She finally decided to let us just make one as a group, so that was great news.

About the time she agreed to that, we noticed that Sophie wasn't around. Joanna remembered that she thought she saw her leave with Veronica (the lady that cleans the house and works for Waldy). Sarah and Joanna rushed out the door to see if they could see them, but didn't. We ran upstairs to tell Linda, and basically all began freaking out. Linda ran to Super 99, Sarah and I went toward the park, and Joanna went toward the mall. All unsuccessful. Thankfully she was fine and had just gone up to Waldy's apartment with Veronica, but still. We were all very unhappy. And scared. I can't imagine being a parent in that position. I have never been so worried before.

We spent the rest of the afternoon painting for another part of our presentation. It is supposed to be our view of Panama or what stood out to us the most, so this is what I made:

He's So Soft & I Just Want To Rip His Legs Off

We went to El Valle in Coclé. It's actually a whole town on the inside of a volcano. But here's the question: who decides that it's been long enough since the last eruption of the volcano that they can move in anyway?
But I digress. I will say that it was pretty cool. We went to an elementary school there (of course we did) for about an hour. Joanna and I were in a Pre K class. I really love working with the little ones. Precious doesn't even begin to explain them.

After the school we headed to the rain forest! We had a chance to do the whole zip line deal... and this girl was not so sure about that zip line. I feel like it's just something you should do but it is nothing I desire to do at all. It turned out to be rather pricey for not a very long time and I just didn't think it was worth it. Only 4 of us did it, but it was pretty cool to be out in the rain forrest, even though we didn't even see any exciting wildlife. When I was on crutches I made a list of things to do once I was off of them and hiking was the last thing on my list. check! Also, I walked across this bridge and others like it. I did not like it, but I am rather proud of myself.

While we were at lunch, we stopped by a market next door. These markets are my favorite! Unfortunately we spent so much time at the market that we missed the museum. Such a shame. We have only been to 58 of them already.

 Next up: the zoo with the most beautiful view EVER.

And last but not least: Aguas Termales. Because it is a volcano, they have natural hot springs. We got there at 4:30 and it closed at 5, so we only had time for part of it. Which included putting this nasty mud concoction on our faces and sitting with our feet in this hot pool while it dried.

and these things. you stand in one and another person stands in the other that is pretty far away and when you talk into it it's like you are standing right next to each other. it's so cool!

on the way home we stopped at the greatest bakery ever and I had the best cinnamon roll I've ever had in my life. and Hillary got turtle bread (hence the name of this post). And then Alexis let us have one last stop for some empanadas. There weren't many left and the guy looked at Sarah like she was crazy when she said we would take the rest. oh Chichemito.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

I Think I'm His American Girlfriend Or Something

I am falling way behind on my blogging, which doesn't mean much to most of you, but this is where I'm keeping up with everything from my trip and I'm so afraid of forgetting things.

Anyway, Thursday we visited a private Episcopal school. I was in a first grade classroom for the morning. Of course I thought they were absolutely precious and wanted to take them home with me. never fails. The teacher didn't really talk to me very much at all, so I just sat down with some of the kids and started talking to them. I think the teacher thought I don't speak Spanish, so she kinda ignored me for a while. I learn so much more when I talk to the kids. I am amazed at how willing they are to teach me and how patient they are. They went to a folklore class and danced and oh. my. goodness. they are absolutely precious! As we were walking down there I thought about how mad I was in Portobelo when my camera died... then it died again. Every time precious babies dance my camera dies! So I made a mad dash upstairs to get Joanna's camera. Darn camera. (those pictures are not on my computer yet, so stay tuned)

Let's talk about this Congo business. It's hard, y'all. My hips don't move like that. I wish I was Hispanic and I wish that they did, but I am, in fact, very white. I love to dance and have fun, but I can't do that Congo business. While we were practicing people kept coming in and out of the room and we were getting kinda embarrassed about it. We aren't very good at it and were really trying but we just felt weird about it. Kinda like word was getting around that the Americans in the stupid orange sweaters were trying to do. It was just awkward. We were all so frustrated that we were getting upset. When we got home and talked to Linda about it, she decided to email Dr. Mas. Long story short, Dr. Mas agreed that it was kinda ridiculous, told us she was sending an email, and we don't have to dance. That is a huge relief and I feel so much better about our whole presentation in general.

After a bit of a rough day, we all decided to do a little shopping (aka chopping) and dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe. how very American of us, I know. But it was nice to have a little taste of America and get out for a little bit.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Remember That Time Panama Flooded? That Was Cool.

Yesterday it started raining on our way home from school, about 4:30. Then it rained harder. And harder. And harder. For 2 hours. By the time we looked out our window at the street, it looked like this:

find a video here:

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Is Swaziland in Australia?

9 days until home! we're in the single digits, people! Sarah pointed out today that we can't really count next Thursday because we are going to the beach, Hard Rock Cafe, and to see Dear John. oh, and we're not going to sleep because the bus is coming to take us to the airport at 4:30 am. so why sleep? we also can't count Friday since we leave so early. so basically, we have 7 days left. which is, in fact, not what this post is even supposed to be about at all.

Today was our last day at Omar Torrijos. I feel like I have finally gotten comfortable there and now it's time to go. I am more comfortable with Juana and Mery, the language, the students, and the school. I can't believe it's time to leave them. I love them all so much and worry about them way too much. What is going to happen to Darkins? I love him so much. No child has ever made me laugh like he does. But he needs extra attention. Something isn't quite right with him. He has the attention span of about .3 seconds. But when you talk to him while he works and help him, he can do it. I don't think enough people think he can. Esteban has anger problems that no one will acknowledge. When I mentioned it to someone it was like they had never even thought about it before. When he gets mad, something in his eyes changes. He is a different person. It scares me to think about where he will be by the time he gets to high school. Will he even make it to high school? He has so much potential. I want them all to be successful and happy. They have such a special place in my heart. When I left today all of the girls cried and cried (and of course I did too), and they all hung onto me as I tried to walk out the door. break. my. heart. I didn't want to leave. I wish I knew that I could see them again one day.

I am so thankful for the opportunity to be here. No, it hasn't been easy, but it has been worth it. There have been ups and downs and tears and frustrations and getting on people's nerves and people getting on my nerves, but at the end of the day, this is where I want to be.

ps- I can almost Congo. Almost.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

My Heart Has Been Replaced With A Face

I've been shaken from my head on down to my toes,
Lord, use me, take me where You want me to go,
I can't help it, my heart has been replaced with a face,
I'm ready, these hands are dedicated to change.
-Shaken, Hawk Nelson

Pero No Soy Negra

Today my kids threw a "surprise" party for me. I use the term "surprise" very lightly because 2nd graders are not very good at keeping secrets. After recess a couple girls were lagging behind and being really weird (clearly trying to keep me from going back into the classroom). When they finally let me in, everyone was sitting in a big circle and there was a piñata in the middle and they all started screaming. It was precious. Insert first of many cries here. Narichel gave me this bracelet that her aunt made:
and this bag. the type of design is called mola. she is part of an indigenous tribe called Kuna and this is what they are "famous" for

Hillary got me this sweet little thing with all kinda of Panamanian goodies in it. It has a doll in the middle that is dresses in a traditional Panamanian dress. Hillary dances and she said it looks like her dress.

Juana and Mery gave Linda and I these shirts. tourists much? oh but I love it.

It was such a wonderful time. I seriously love those kids so much, It's so funny how they made me cry for being so bad at first, and then I was crying at the thought of leaving them. 

Class was actually interesting. Until yesterday, my Spanish teaching seemed to think I was incompetent. I cannot tell you how many times I heard, "Endendiste, Carmen? Me explica?" (do you understand, Carmen?) Yes, in fact, I do understand the language. If I didn't, I would not be here. But thank you for asking me 43 times a day and making sure that I understand. Well yesterday I told her what was up. She asked a question that I had a lot of opinion about and I just started talking. Was it all correct? Definitely not. But I just started talking and didn't stop until I had said all I wanted to say. She hasn't asked me if I understand every since. BAM, roasted.

Then it was time for History class, which actually turned into dance class. We learned the Congo. Turns out I can't Congo. My hips don't move that way. It's a dance from a black indigenous tribe. I am not black. Then they told us we had to do it for our presentation next week. Our presentation that is in front of 200 people. It's all fun and game until someone tells you that you have to do the Congo in front of 200 people. Then someone is going to get hurt. Not to mention that is one thing the broken leg is not a fan of. So it kinda put a damper on my day. I just needed some alone time in general and was definitely on edge, but it seems like there is never time or a place. Then everyone went out for the night and it was just me and Joanna all night long. Oh, silence. Glorious silence. Glorious night.

random thoughts:
-I found myself praying in Spanish.
-I'm getting my languages tangled up whenever I talk to someone who speaks both languages.
-I have never been able to roll my Rs, but now I can. when I'm singing. just another reason why my life should be a musical. 
-JJ Heller. look her up. best music I have heard in a long time. I'm obsessed.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Why Did The Chicken Cross The Panama Canal?

Today was one of the best days of my life. Yes, that's a very bold statement. And yes, it's true.

Let's be honest, I did not want to go teach today. Not a single fiber of my being wanted to be awake this morning, much less going to teach. But I had no choice, so I found the strength to drag myself out of bed. When I got out of the shower, Sarah was here with Dunkin Donuts coffee. She is so good to me. How can you not be happy when you have coffee, even on a Monday?

I talked to Juana for about 45 minutes today. And by talk, I mean actually conversed. Almost like people who speak the same language. Only once did I have absolutely no idea what she was saying but understood as soon as she explained some of the words. It was awesome. I enjoy her so much. For the first time I didn't find myself trying to plan what I was going to say. I didn't have to concentrate on her every word and put forth a ton of effort. I just understood and responded. It was awesome. We laughed and talked about the students and which ones have a hard time and need more help and what she does to help them. Have I already said that it was awesome? Because it was.

Juana and I taught Linda some Spanish, which is always hilarious because I get to be translator so I know what each person is saying before the other person does. I love translating. And, once again, it was so easy. It just happened. The kids played with Sophie (they are slightly obsessed with her) and I taught them The Moose Song.

Everything was going great... until Juana left. But this time she was literally only walking next door and promised she was coming right back. But that's all it took. Esteban kicked Narichel in the face and by the time I got to Narichel and talked to her through the tears to find out what happened and turned around to talk to Esteban, he was punching Javier. And by punching, I mean are you in 7th grade or 2nd grade kind of punching. I grabbed Esteban by the arm and jerked him right out of that room. Insert teacher mode here. It was kinda cool, let's be honest. Home boy is scared of me now, and that's the way I like it with him. Don't you kick my girl Narichel in the face and then punch another kid. No, sir. Juana came back right as I pulled Esteban out of the class thankfully an then it was time to go. Oddly enough, I still thought all of that went pretty well.

For class today we were supposed to go to this day care kinda deal on campus and help out. Day care is the only way I can think of to describe it, but it's really a lot better than a day care. The babies were sleeping at the beginning of class, so we went to see where we have to give our presentation (ps- we have to give an hour long presentation as a group to all of UDELAS and some other schools are coming. cool, huh?). We ended up sitting down and just talking with our teacher about our experiences. Once again, I found myself actually communicating. I didn't hold back my opinions because I was too afraid to talk. Please keep in mind that this teacher has basically been acting like she thinks I'm stupid because apparently my resting face exudes confusion and she thinks I never understand anything. Well today I showed her what's up.

The day care was so much fun. Those babies are just precious. We danced and played for the rest of the afternoon.

We spent our time at home just working on homework and we went to the the pharmacy to get some stuff as presents for our teachers. Real excited about the basket I've made up! Everyone but me, Sarah, and Joanna went to the movies (we're going on half price Wednesday!) and so it was just us here with Linda and Sophie. Sophie came into our room for a long time and cracked us up. As we were listening to her tell stories and braiding her hair, all I could think about was the day that I am doing the same thing with my own daughter. I will braid her hair to keep it out of her face while she runs around outside. I'll fix her dress every time it gets messed up, even though I know it will be messed up again in 5 minutes. I'll keep every pictures she draws for me and be so proud of each one. I will listen to her made up stories, laugh when they're not really funny, and bask in the beautiful sound of her laughter filling the room.

This is the first time I have gone to bed having said, "this has been a good day," all day long. Every day that I am here God affirms more and more that I belong... somewhere else. Where? I have no idea. What I do know is that it is not in the United States. I don't miss home. Sure, I miss a few things and I miss being able to talk to people, but I don't miss the States. I don't belong there. I belong here. I have known that for a very long time, but now I see one more piece of the puzzle. I can do it.

All day I have just been so happy. Genuinely, truly happy. And full of joy like I have never experienced before. This feels like home. Maybe not Panama specifically, but this culture. This language. This life. This job. This ministry. It all feels like home to me.